Monday, 7 October 2013

Matilde’s miracle - “the Camino is not exactly life changing”

Do you believe in miracles? On the Camino? Hmmmm...I’ve always been sceptical. Until now.

In August  I got an e mail from a film producer:
Hello Mr. Walker, 
My name is Zachary and I’m an associate producer for a new series on History Channel about Miracles. In each episode we explore stories of people from around the world who have experienced, performed or witnessed a miraculous event and how it changed their lives. 
In my research I came across your blog on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. We are planning on travelling to Santiago de Compostela and hoping to speak with people about their experiences on the Way of Saint James. It would be great to speak with you about some of the stories you've heard and written about on your blog. 
If you're interested in speaking with us could we set up a call or Skype chat for sometime next week?
Thanks very much and looking forward to speaking with you. 

Zachary Frank
Associate Producer
Saloon Media

T: (416)-786-9490

Looking back my reply positively dripped with scepticism:

Hi Zachary
I´m happy to talk about this although entirely unsure of the miracle association!
Let me know when you want to call me or we can correspond.


I’d forgotten about all of this when my friend and English pupil, Matilde, announced that she was going to walk the Camino. She’s a practical, no nonsense Santiago lass who is an historian by profession and when she can get a job she teaches. Like others in the 27% of the Spanish population who are unemployed Matilde has been out of work for some time.

I suppose it was because she had time on her hands and had been listening to me droning on about the Camino every time we met that her mind turned to the possibilities of travelling to St Jean Pied de Port and walking back to her home. This is rare as people from Santiago rarely ever walk to Santiago – they live there! Add to that the endless mockery of her 30-something friends in Santiago that she had joined “the sect” it took some courage for her to pack her rucksack and prepare to leave.
We did a couple of practice walks, from Padrón to Santiago on the last stage of the Camino Portuguese and from Sigȕeiro on the last stage of the Camino Inglés. She seemed to me to be a natural walker with an easy rhythm and pace and I knew if she took things easy in the early stages of the Camino Francés she’d be fine.   

To send her on her way in style I arranged a blessing for her as a surprise. Her family were there and it was an emotionally charged moment. They wouldn’t see her for over a month. Tears flowed when her mother presented her with her scallop shell and her father presented her walking stick. They were both duly blessed as was the pilgrim. The congregation applauded when the priest wished her the first of many “buen caminos” she would hear.
Off she went. Every three or four days she sent me a brief text telling me where she was and finished it with “no problems, no blisters”. Another said, “can’t sleep in the albergues, I am trying to avoid the crowds”. At times there was the odd typical pilgrim's photograph -we always photograph our shadows! 

The days went on with a few monosyllabic reports “scenery beautiful”, “weather excellent”.

Something niggled in my mind that perhaps she was not entirely embracing the Camino or it was not exactly what she thought it would be.

Eventually we spoke on one of these internet chat programmes. The conversation went like this:

“How is everything?” “Fine”, “But are you getting something out of it?” Then came the historic answer:

“The Camino is a very positive experience, John, but not exactly life changing”.

Truth to tell Matilde has been on my prayer list for a while. She’s young and talented and needs a job. She needs a chance to move her life on to another place. And so I was  mildly disappointed that the Camino I had raved about so much seemed to not be displaying the force which I felt particularly on my first camino.

A few days passed. “Matilde must be within reach of Santiago” I thought. Then I got a message. “John can you contact me urgently, there has been a miracle.”

I did and now report the facts:

In 2009 Matilde submitted her CV as a teacher to the local authority in Sarria. She heard nothing from them.

In September 2013 as she walked through the woods at Sarria her phone rang. It was the Director of Education. “Could she start teaching at a school in Sarria tomorrow?”

She did, and reported to the school 20 hours after she left the Camino. As she looked out of the classroom she was astonished to see pilgrims walking past. The school is on the Camino.

She had to quickly find an apartment as commuting from Santiago over 100 kms away is not an option. She found one which was ideal. It is right on the Camino and every morning Matilde follows the yellow arrows to school.
A miracle? I don’t know. Prayers answered – certainly.

“The camino is not a life changing experience” – she’ll never live that down!

 And I need to apologise to Zachary for my earlier lack of enthusiasm for the topic!


  1. Fantastic John!
    Thanks for sharing Matilde's story.

  2. Amazing, wonderful and delightful!! I'm sitting here smiling from ear to ear! Let go and let God and look whatchya get! So very happy for her!

  3. Amazing! I am speechless and so happy for Mati!
    Well done Mati!!! well done!!!

  4. A las personas maravillosas les pasan cosas maravillosas.